David Brousell, Manufacturing Leadership Council

To maintain a competitive advantage, Wisconsin manufacturing companies are learning they have to adopt emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and automation to run their business.

While the number of manufacturing companies using software and robotics is increasing, leaders within the industry don’t expect people to become obsolete on the manufacturing floor.

At the Focus on Manufacturing Breakfast presented by the WMC Foundation and the Milwaukee Business Journal on Feb. 21, company and industry leaders said a hybrid of digital and human labor and intelligence will be required in factories of the future.

According to David Brousell, vice president and executive director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council, a division of the National Association of Manufacturers, most manufacturing companies envision a hybrid of humans and robots, analog and digital features.

“In our business, where we make billions of parts in high variability, it’s hard for me to foresee a future where there are no people,” said event panelist Terry Tuttle, president of HellermannTyton North America, which has a large Milwaukee presence. “I think that the shift will happen, but also as we take AI throughout the whole manufacturing organization, I’m really interested in the possibilities from forecasting, to how do we purchase raw materials, all the way to demand planning, driving manufacturing operations, all the way through distribution and out the door.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality register high among lead buying intentions for company management over the next few years, Brousell said, a telling theme of where manufacturing companies plan to invest their future dollars.

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